PHOTO: Courtesy Jack Hanna family via Twitter
Jack “Jungle Jack” Hanna, celebrity zookeeper, wildlife conservationist and television personality, is navigating dementia. His condition has grown more severe in the past year of pandemic lockdowns.
In a statement on Twitter last week, Jack Hanna’s three daughters shared the news that Hanna, 74, is believed to have Alzheimer’s, and that the past year has been particularly detrimental to his health.
“His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated,” his daughters wrote. “Sadly, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life as he used to.”
This is not an unfamiliar experience for people living with Alzheimer’s through the isolation and heightened stress of COVID-19: Music icon Tony Bennett, 94, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago. His wife revealed Bennett’s diagnosis to the public just this February after pandemic circumstances exacerbated symptoms and sped the toll of the disease. “Just how therapeutically beneficial performing had been for Tony soon became obvious when his world shrank to the confines of his apartment,” Bennett’s neurologist told AARP earlier this year.
The Hanna family may be enduring a similar acceleration of symptoms. Hanna served as director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio from 1978 to 1992 and continued to be its spokesperson until this past year. He retired in 2020.
“Dad advocated for improved wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals,” his family wrote in the statement. “He has spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that having people see and experience animals is key to engaging them in more impactful conversations … Even though Dad is no longer able to travel and work in the same way, we know that his infectious enthusiasm has touched many hearts and will continue to be his legacy.”
A letter from the Hanna Family pic.twitter.com/ewuNYa0ReG
— Jack Hanna (@JungleJackHanna) April 7, 2021
The Columbus Zoo told CBS News, “While Jack retired from his official role at the end of 2020, his legacy will be ever-present in our work as we continue to fulfill our organization’s mission to lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife.”
The Hanna family asked for privacy and understanding due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the sisters adding, “ironic given Dad’s love of interacting with people.”
“While Dad’s health has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through,” the statement said. “And yes, he still wears his khakis at home.”
6 thoughts on “Family of Wildlife Celebrity Jack Hanna Shares Alzheimer’s Diagnosis”
I love the old time music. Especially the music from the 50’s to the 80’s.
God bless you Sir. Thank you for your loving contribution to our wildlife. Your huge heart will forever be grateful.
What a remarkable man I continue to enjoy the shows to this day my family continues to pray for you during this difficult time in your life, god bless you for all you have done🙏🏻
In our combined 25 years as docents and zoo aides, our 4 family members had many enjoyable encounters with Jack. Our most memorable one was when we were called at the last minute to do a group tour. It was for 33 Chinese business people, and ONE interpreter! As we walked with them through the zoo, it was apparent that they were more interested in the business aspects of the zoo than the animals. As we tried to explain the predator-prey exhibits, we saw Jack walking past. One of us hurried to him and asked if he would please answer some of their questions. They recognized him! And after numerous photos, he graciously talked with them for about half an hour. They were grateful, and so we’re we!
I now volunteer at the Central Florida Zoo, Jack’s first directorship. They had fond memories of him there, too. I met him there, too, soon after I moved to Florida.
Was deeply saddened to hear about your Dad/husband. Loved watching him whenever he was on tv. He educated me, made me laugh and brought me moments of joy. Will keep you all in my prayers…enjoy every minute that you have together.
This is sad news for me. I have loved watching his show from almost the beginning and still continue to. I love that he included family in all his travels. Love his sense of humor, I actually had a crush on him. You have a lovely family Jack! Thank you for your contributions to educating and saving animals. God bless you Jack and your family.